A few years ago, I decided to try something different as I worked to find answers to my life. I decided to set an appointment with God.
Perhaps I was presumptuous or misguided in my thinking, perhaps I was tired of the hollowness I felt inside, or perhaps I simply needed a way to make it another day. I’m not sure, honestly, but I learned some valuable lessons, regardless of the accuracy of my thoughts or emotions at that time.
Leading up to this time, I read in D&C 88:62-63 when God commanded to “call upon me while I am near—Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” As I thought about the times I felt I had tried in the past to come to God, I also thought about two words, “call” and “knock”.
Previous to this time, I had always viewed the word “call” similar to ‘calling’ on a phone. In other words, I thought it meant to pray. However, I never understood what it meant to ‘knock’. I had some basic concepts about seeking, asking, and drawing near, but ‘knocking’ simply did not make much sense.
As I sat thinking, I realized that when the scriptures were written, there were no phones to ‘call’ anyone, and images from movies depicting the 18th and 19th centuries came into my mind where a young man would ask a woman if he could ‘call’ on her. When I saw these images, I looked at the scripture differently, thinking that maybe God was inviting me to come and be with Him. If that was the case, and I was ‘calling’ on God by going to where He was at the time, then ‘knocking’ made a little more sense to me as well, since I would knock on the door of a person if I arrived at their home to ‘call’ on them. It was all part of the greeting process.
At that time, I was quite busy with plenty of deadlines, church responsibilities, and family responsibilities. My life was booked from sunup to sundown, and I still didn’t get everything done that I needed to. I tried to find a time to fit in a trip to the Temple to ‘call’ upon God, but my mornings would begin before Temple sessions would end, and my nights wouldn’t end until Temple sessions were done.
So, at that time, I decided that maybe, just maybe, if I set aside some time just for God, Him and I could visit during that time.
With that in mind, I told God in prayer one night that I was making an appointment to meet Him in one of my basement rooms at a certain time in the early morning. I hoped He would understand due to how busy my life was and all of the responsibilities I had, and I asked Him to be with me during the appointed time.
I woke up the next morning, somewhat hopeful that I would be able to connect with God in some meaningful way. I had felt a distance for some time, and wanted to be able to feel something, even if it were just the Spirit again.
I proceeded to my basement at the appointed time. I prayed, told God I was there and that I ‘knocked’ in a figurative sense. Then, I waited. And waited. And waited.
Soon, the little time I had for my appointment with God was over. Life was calling me again, deadlines were pressing on me, and I hadn’t felt or sensed God during the appointment. Somewhat disappointed, I decided that maybe I needed to try again and set another appointment, just maybe a little further out.
So, I set another appointment as I prayed, telling God the next time I would be available. This process continued for a few weeks, mainly because when appointment times came, sleep often overpowered me, and I did not wake up for them. I don’t remember exactly why I was so tired, but I’m sure there were plenty of good justifications to be so tired between my children, church callings, and work.
I felt a little guilty missing various appointments I had set with God, but reasoned that God knew that I had tried. So, I set other appointments. I tried to make them, but I missed most of them, honestly, due to sleeping straight through the appointed time. Yet, I was never once late to work, no matter how little sleep I had the night before.
After a few weeks of setting appointments, missing most of them, and not feeling any different for the ones I kept, I gave up the experiment, disappointed that God had not reached out to me while I had tried.
It took some time for me to start to understand where I had gone wrong, and I am still realizing things about myself from my attempts to set an appointment with God. Some of the things I realized include:
First, I learned how little self-control I had when it came to spiritual things. I had enough self-control to wake up for work—regardless of how many times kids threw up the night before—but I would sleep straight through designated times for me to be involved in reading, studying, and pondering spiritual things.
When I finally realized that I was never late for work, but often missed my time set aside for spiritual things, I realized that my priorities were quite askew. I could arrive on time for work each day (no matter how tired I was) because I placed that as a high priority in my life. In other words, my internal priorities gave me power to override fatigue, exhaustion, and the like, and I still worked. Yet, spiritual things were not enough of a priority for me to sacrifice sleep for.
Second, I learned how pridefully and ignorantly I viewed my life. When I set my appointment with God, asking Him to meet me in my basement, I was, in effect, saying that my pursuit of money and my desire for sleep were more important than me figuring out a time to go to God’s house. I was busy, yes, and I justified it saying I was doing what God asked me to—providing for my family, working hard, caring for children, and fulfilling a church calling.
Yet, my view of life was centered around me. I was willing to give up sleep for a chance to get ahead at work, but not for a chance to connect with God. As an attorney, I could somehow change my entire schedule to be fully prepared for a court date (the time would somehow exist for me to review and memorize all necessary documents and arguments), and I would be up, dressed in a suit and tie, and leaving early enough to court to still arrive on time regardless of the weather outside. I had to be that way, I thought to myself, because I am representing other people in court.
As I started reflecting on why I could appear in court at any time set by a judge but could not make it to God’s house, I realized I had the power sufficient to still arrange my time, despite my busy schedule. For some reason though, I would only exercise that power of mine if something physical and tangible demanded it. A child crying in the night, for example, would force me to get up, or a judge issuing a court date would require me to prepare for the legal arguments at the hearing.
But when it came to spiritual things, nothing compelled me to prepare. Nothing compelled me to get up, and I missed out, day after day, week after week, and year after year, because my priorities were off, my pride was high, and my ignorance ran deep.
Third, I was telling God how He should work in my life. That, I have come to realize, happens far more often than I am okay admitting. I consistently find myself believing that things should be a certain way, rather than believing that God has already appointed the way. My role or obligation is not to blaze some new path, method, or way to God or Heaven, it is simply to walk the path that is already there.
I still often find myself falling into this trap. There are so many things I do not understand about God and His ways that it is easy to criticize His plan and His ways. I usually don’t publicly criticize, but find that spirit of criticism running through my heart, and find dissatisfaction with people, church, and my perception of God’s treatment of me.
Why can’t I just love people? I thought to myself one day. “You can” came a thought in response, “but you have to let go and do things God’s way.”
God has a path. He walked it, He blazed the way, and my job is to follow rather than tell God that there is a better path for me at any particular time in my life.
Fourth, I learned how much I lacked in faith. When things were physical, I could respond and adjust my life to meet those demands. I did not need faith to know my baby was crying, I could simply hear that and know I needed to respond. I did need faith though, a lot of faith, to believe that setting aside time to study the scriptures was worthwhile during periods where I already missed so much sleep, or that I could take a morning off from work and go to the Temple to truly call upon God.
Fifth, I learned that appointments with God can be an amazing thing, when they are done in His way. Dedicating time each day to awake and read the scriptures (rather than quickly reading a few verses before falling completely asleep at night), or time each month to attend the Temple (rather than missing another month and another month), has brought me more in line with God, has helped change my priorities, and has helped light return.
I still don’t have any amazing visions to share, I still haven’t seen angels descending from Heaven when I read scriptures or attend the Temple, and I am still working through plenty of internal issues that block my view of Heaven and my relationship with God.
However, as I work to gain enough self-control to make spiritual matters a priority, to set spiritual appointments for myself that I structure the rest of my life around so that I can study and seek God (rather than telling Him where and when to be to accommodate my pride), and as I work to do things in the way God established, light is returning to my heart.
It’s a line upon line, day by day process for me. I don’t change all at once, I still struggle with misplaced priorities, pride, and lack of self-control, and I still have periods where God feels far away. Yet, I have learned that it isn’t God that is not where He is supposed to be, it is me, but I can change and make the life journey necessary to truly ‘call’ upon God where He is in Heaven.